Thursday, January 31, 2013

The GOP's Virginia Problem

As the Republican Party nationally attempts to fix its supposed "messaging" problem, GOP members of the Virginia General Assembly are busy making it clear to everyone watching that batshit craziness and extremism are the party's real problem regardless of how deep in denial GOP potentates maybe.  Frankly, what is being witnessed with the Virginia GOP is what one would expect when de facto control of the party has been turned over to white supremacists, knuckle dragging Neanderthals who celebrate the embrace of ignorance and the religious fanatics at The Family Foundation, a Christofascist organization with ties to the hate group Family Research Council.  Politico has a lengthy piece that looks at the GOP lunacy in Richmond and how it is churning out bad PR for the GOP nationally.  Here are excerpts:

As GOP leaders in Washington look to remake their national brand, they don’t have to look far to find their first real challenge.  It’s taming rogue Republicans right across the Potomac.

In the eyes of party strategists, Virginia’s off-year elections represent a first opportunity to bounce back from the losses of 2012 – a chance to reset the political debate in a critical swing state, send off popular Gov. Bob McDonnell on a high note and deliver a national message about the direction of the Republican Party.

If only the Republican state legislature, local conservative leadership and de facto gubernatorial nominee could stick to the talking points. Instead, national Republicans fear the true believers in Richmond could shout down their fledgling message of prudence and moderation in a state that’s easy prey for much of the political media.

The GOP-held state Senate rocked Old Dominion politics less than two weeks ago by passing a daring plan to redraw the legislative map, rushing the proposal through as a potentially decisive Democratic lawmaker was out of town for Inauguration Day. In the days since then, legislators again stirred national attention by flirting with – before ultimately discarding – a proposal to divvy up Virginia’s Electoral College votes by congressional district, effectively rigging the state for the GOP.
All of that came as a highly unwelcome sequel to the 2012 uproar over a Virginia measure – championed by conservative state Del. Bob Marshall – mandating ultrasound procedures for women seeking abortions.

It was less than a year ago that Democrats seized on that issue as a national cause, using it to drive Virginia women away from the GOP ticket from Mitt Romney on down. Within Virginia, Republicans blame the ultrasound firestorm for undercutting McDonnell as a vice presidential contender and damaging Senate candidate George Allen, who ultimately lost to former governor Tim Kaine.

Now, the same legislative body that steered the 2012 GOP message off course has struggled to refocus on a winning agenda for 2013. The still-unresolved redistricting controversy, Republicans say, has been an unwanted distraction from McDonnell’s ambitious proposals to overhaul education and transportation. The Virginia House of Delegates is expected to decide soon whether or not to take up the Senate’s provocative new legislative map, with McDonnell’s legacy and national profile once again at stake.

The stakes are far higher than in your garden-variety state legislative wrangling: Virginia has become one of the most important swing states in the country, a traditional GOP stronghold that now has two Democratic U.S. senators and voted twice for President Barack Obama.

While polls show the 2013 governor’s race is highly competitive, Republicans have felt distinctly anxious in recent weeks over a series of hard-right comments by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a hero of national conservatives who has continued to speak out on issues such as contraception and the Affordable Care Act despite outside pressure to pivot toward the middle.

Republicans are keenly aware that their political foes have perfected the art of hyping up clashes in Richmond and turning them to the GOP’s disadvantage. The governor’s office isn’t the only prize on the ballot this year: the other statewide constitutional offices hang in the balance, as does the Republican super-majority in the legislature’s lower chamber.

After the triumph of Democratic culture-war politics in the 2012 cycle, the party has actively worked to tie Cuccinelli to the legislature’s least popular actions – even as the Republican has expressed disapproval of measures like the Electoral College scheme. The state party has blasted out hits on “The extreme Cuccinelli-Marshall agenda,” referring to the state legislature who championed last year’s ultrasound bill.

And the Republican candidate has continued to offer up fodder, dabbling in the federal contraception debate on national talk radio and writing a book-cum-ideological manifesto, “The Last Line of Defense,” set for release in February.

McAuliffe communications director Brennan Bilberry signaled that the Democratic nominee would effectively enlist the legislature in making the case that Cuccinelli’s too much of a hardliner to serve as governor: “Cuccinelli’s desire to impose his social agenda in Virginia is especially disturbing to voters who know that many Republicans in the legislature would happily help implement his extreme ideas.”

Cuccinelli adviser Chris LaCivita dismissed the notion that even repeated cycles of legislative drama could have an impact on the overall climate for Republicans.

The simple truth is that the Virginia GOP has become a party of radical extremists with Cuccinelli being one of the most deranged of the lot.  I certainly will try to inform voters on the issue via this blog and my VEER Magazine columns.

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